Film

Faux Vox Pop

Aaron Russo: The Rich Man's Michael Moore!

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I'll just get this out of the way: There are a lot of stupid people in this world, and some of those stupid people are going to see America: From Freedom to Fascism and buy into its half-baked, hole-ridden, libertarian rhetoric about the alleged illegality of the federal income tax. And that's a shame, if for no other reason than it'll be a small defeat for logic.

Director Aaron Russo used to produce movies that were intended to make us laugh, like Eddie Murphy's hilarious Trading Places—but now he's resigned himself to providing unintentional humor. Jocking every trick Michael Moore has ever used, Russo implants himself into his documentary as interviewer, narrator, and man on the street with a microphone. Trouble is, the frog-faced Russo is nearly unwatchable. Where Moore is a working-class everyman (albeit one with an agenda), Russo is quite clearly of a different caste: Hollywood mogul (albeit one whose creative well has run dry). It makes his vox pop moments fall flat, and you can only hear, "Hi, I'm Aaron Russo—I produced the movie Trading Spaces with Eddie Murphy" and "I'm Aaron Russo, award-winning film producer" so many times without doubling over.

Where the film really shits the bed, though, is when it tries to prove its point. By presenting half-baked ideas with the faux certainty that comes through sheer repetition and bending historical facts to fit his agenda, Russo manages to portray the legality of the income tax as something actually worthy of debate. Thing is, it's only up for debate among anti-tax conspiracy theorists who have anarchist, anti-social tendencies.

So, let me settle this: The 16th Amendment of the US Constitution gives Congress the power to impose an income tax, and Congress delegated that authority to the IRS. It's been upheld by numerous Supreme Court cases—including some that have been twisted by Russo and his "tax honesty" cohorts.

And since the filmmaker himself doesn't mention it, I will: Russo has $2 million in tax liens with the IRS. Kinda makes you question his impartiality.

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